Voluntourism

In a recent podcast episode, Eliza Rubin mentioned „voluntourism“ (see episode #28 for her explanation of the term). Here, I want to apply the concept to the web / internet / online space – so basically: virtual voluntourism.

In my opinion, this is what happens when someone asks people to visit a particular web address to perform some kind of supposedly good deed. For example: „Visit itunes and rate this podcast“ or „Visit facebook and like our page“, or maybe „post a comment“, „send us an email“ or „follow me“ or whatever.

I don’t need to visit google or gmail or whatever someone wants me to visit. If you like google or some other website, then that is perfectly fine with me – but don’t ask me to care about sites you seem to be fans of. You can be a fan of whatever site all you want, but don’t ask me to share your point of view. Anyway: If I were to do so because you asked me to, it would be meaningless.

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Global Languages (and/or Classification Schemes) + Generic Top Level Domains (TLDs)

Whereas traditional classification schemes (such as the Dewey Decimal Classification [DDC] or the Library of Congress classification scheme [LC]) have primarily been oriented towards topical segmentation of publications published by individual persons or corporate entities, I feel it is now a pretty safe bet that the landscape of generic top-level domains is instead oriented towards segmenting information based on a palette of various communication types, in other words segments of interactions or engagement types used in the broader field of general communications. One might think of this as on par with the „speech act“ theories developed in the latter half of the 20th Century, though using the world-wide web the focus is not interpersonal communication, but rather open and public communications.

Several years ago, I posted a „guesstimate“ of what com, net and org represent. Now I want to attempt to expand this to more / all generic domains. This is what I have so far:

  • com = commerce + commercials (ads + advertising)
  • net = networking
  • org = organizations (i.e. corporate entities – originally primarily „non-profit“)
  • info = reference, lookup services (e.g. publications created on behalf of communities or community services)
  • biz = small business
  • name = naming + classification (originally primarily personal brands)
  • tel = contact / directory
  • pro = paid / professional services

Note the omission of „gov“ and „edu“ (and „travel“, „museum“, etc.) – this is not an oversight; I consider these „proprietary“ top level domains. Going forward, the vast majority of top-level domains will probably be proprietary. The number of generic top level domains may even be fixed from this point onwards, as this type of registry (i.e. „generic“ registries) is (are) apparently no longer being planned.

However, the above list may in fact not be exhaustive. Likewise, the descriptions are highly speculative and should probably be considered more as „suggested“ rather than as descriptive or prescriptive.

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Auctions + Markets for Domains, Domain Names + TLDs

Several years ago, one of my friends (who is not a „domainer“ per se) made a very insightful remark… – a remark that I have carried around with me ever since and also pondered over all this time (and indeed, I continue to do so).

He noted that domain names are not interchangable the way uniform products are – you can’t replace one domain name with another one the way you can exchange one pair of jeans with another pair of jeans, one rubber duckie with another rubber duckie, one toaster with another toaster or one widget with another widget. Therefore, unlike the market prices we are all familiar with for one ounce of gold or one barrel of oil, domain names belong to an entirely different category of things. The are unique, much in the same way that a painting by Van Gogh or Rembrandt are unique. Just as it doesn’t make sense to switch out a painting made by Picasso with a crayon drawing made by the kid around the corner, you cannot simply exchange or replace health.com with movies.com (or even health.com with health.net, or movies.com with movies.net).

This became vividly clear to me earlier today as I was writing a response to a question raised by Michael Berkens (see „Quick Poll How Much Will .Web Sell For In The ICANN Auction On July 27th ?“). There, the discussion had become focused on whether the new TLD „web“ is comparable to the generic TLD „net“. Michael did a „back of the envelope“ calculation to arrive at $500 million as the value of the „net“ registry. I agree with the logic of his argument, but the point I wish to make here is more related to something he included in his remark apparently by chance / in passing.

He noted that the generic „net“ TLD does not offer so-called „premium“ domain names – in other words: that there is no price discrimination (i.e., that all domains are available at the same low price in a „one-size fits-all“ fashion). This is not a magnificent discovery, but I do feel it is something very noteworthy nonetheless. This is the way all generic TLD registries price domains, but it is a very rare (or even non-existent) pricing mechanism among the registry operators of the newer proprietary TLDs. Since the proprietors have such an strong inclination to engage in price discrimination, this might (or could) even be the defining characteristic of the difference between generic TLDs and proprietary TLDs: If there is no price discrimination, then the TLD can be called „generic“; If there is price discrimination, then the TLD should be called „proprietary“.

Although the motivation to identify a TLD as proprietary originally stems from the sole proprietor’s own engagement in the associated market (consider, e.g., Amazon, Inc.’s engagement in the „book“ market, or Google Inc.’s engagement in the „app“ market, or even Johnson & Johnson Inc.’s engagement in the „baby“ market), I feel this is an „easy to use“ metric that seems (to me) to be both valid and reliable in order to distinguish these two very significantly different types of TLD.

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Anti-Dis-Establishment-Arian-Ism + AntiDisInterMediaTion

In this post, I plan to give you a small insight into some of the marketing / branding ideas I developed for this blog. One of the BIG IDEA moments behind „remediary“ is simply that antidisintermediation is nothing other than remediation (and as that is in a rather oblique way the goal / rationailty behind the my argumentation for rational media in the sense of algorithmic, functional, operational,… – new media, media that „works“, etc.) for business goals without needing a lot of busy bodies to do it, without even needing any algorithms, software programs and such – using nothing more than the technology of natural language (a sort of gift from nature / God / the Gods / evolution / whatever).

In my original thinking behind what I used to refer to as „the Wisdom of the Language“ (which, now that I think about it, I may one of these days resurrect under the heading of „rational media“), my thinking about intermediation (and similar intermediary roles) was focused primarily on bringing together business people in a spirit of collaboration. I continue to feel my thinking behind this was valid – but I naively and mistakenly overlooked the simple fact that the vast majority of business people are by and large illiterate (remember that my notion of literacy includes what many people refer to as „media literacy“, „online literacy“, „digital literacy“, etc.).

The „Wisdom of the Language“ ideas are now more than 10 years old. Yet they still remain inaccessible to illiterate people – indeed, to the vast majority of the population. In the intervening decade I have been quite frustrated to come to this realization. Now, reflecting on the past decade, I also realize that I have made many connections to very literate people. Perhaps, I think, maybe I should try to develop these relationships more. Perhaps the people „in the media“ do have a meaningful role to play after all. Perhaps the ability to create and formulate expressions representing ideas is not a gift given from the heavens after all. Perhaps we need a special class of literate people to interpret and translate ideas that ordinary business people may have, but seem to remain unable to express, to communicate, to understand or convey.

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The Rationality of Algorithms: Facebook Algorithm, Google Algorithms or No Algorithm at All?

If you could choose any of the following three options, which one would you pick?

  1. Facebook Algorithm
  2. Google Algorithms
  3. No Algorithm whatsoever

Granted: You probably have more choices than that – I’m just trying to keep it simple (stupid 😉 ).

Let’s review the steps involved.

First, you publish something.

Second, one of the algorithmic options above is applied in order to choose whether someone gets to see your post or not.

Finally, people either see or don’t see your content.

Which one would you choose?

If you’re anything like me, you would probably choose #3 („No Algorithm“). What this means is that there would be no filter between writers and readers… – or rather: No external filters. No middleman. No chaperones, no censors, no manipulation, no mind-control.

I am quite capable of thinking for myself, thank you very much. I can process large amounts of data quite well. I have (and apply) my own machines and algorithms (i.e., applications aka software, etc.) to help me choose what to read (or ignore). I don’t always use the same algorithm, because I don’t always want the same thing. What I want is mostly independent of where my current location is or what I happened to buy yesterday. My friends have different brains than I do, so they are free to choose different content at different times than I want here and now.

As a writer, I definitely don’t want some big media company to censor what I write.

In the rational media model, content producers and content consumers select (or „self-select“) each other via rational terms used to agree on the topics of interaction, the scope of communication, the boundaries of what is deemed relevant (versus irrelevant). Such terms might be short phrases (such as „summer vacation“ or „things to do“), or single keywords (for example „flights“ or „activities“). Some strings might be on the verge of natural language terms (e.g. „carwash“ or „facebook“). The point at which a term is deemed no longer rational is when it is closely linked to the term being „protected“ by so-called intellectual property law (such as trademark law). At that point, the term is no longer informative as an element of language – it then merely becomes an identifier (i.e., a proper name for a specific entity or phenomenon).

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